Complimented By Sheep

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Complimented By Sheep

By Patricia Knight

In the ancient Near East, Israeli people were known as nomadic herdsmen; the barren plains were dotted with sheep. Israel was dependent upon sheep for its livelihood: wool for warm coats, leather for tents, their milk and meat for sustenance, and live animals for temple sacrifices and offerings. Both Jacob and Job were wealthy patriarchs, their prosperity determined by the size of their livestock herds.  Jacob was “exceedingly prosperous and came to own large flocks of sheep and goats” (Genesis 30:43). Job “owned seven thousand sheep” (Job 1:3).

Sheep are mentioned more frequently than any other animal in the Bible. It seems natural, then, that so many narratives and parables in God’s Word use illustrations of shepherds and sheep. Kings in Old Testament times were often referred to as shepherd-leaders of their people. Jesus is our Great Shepherd.‘I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep’” (John 10:14-15). How miraculous that Jesus describes our shepherd-sheep relationship in terms He shares with His heavenly Father!

Jesus’ role extends beyond that of our shepherd; He is also our Shepherd-King, our salvation, security, and strength. We recognize His voice and respond with obedience. “Know that the Lord is God. We are his people, the sheep of his pasture” (Psalm 100:3).

The shepherd invests his life in the care of his flock. Such timid, docile animals are content to remain in the presence of their shepherd, as Christians thrive in the nearness of their Lord. The New Testament church was compared to a sheepfold and Jesus to the shepherd who protected the gate of the fold. The sheepfold is an enclosure where sheep gather in a flock at night. The shepherd sleeps at the entrance, the door or the gate of the fold, positioning his body between the defenseless sheep and nocturnal predators, scavengers, or thieves

Jesus is our door; nothing threatens us without it first alerting Him to danger. He is a living gate of the sheepfold, protecting us, His sheep. Jesus said, “‘I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out and find pasture’” (John 10:9). In Jesus there is safety. We have the freedom to rest and have all of our needs supplied by the Great Shepherd, our Lord and Savior.

Israeli shepherds led their sheep rather than driving them. Their sheep responded to their own shepherd’s voice, and the shepherd knew each animal in his flock. “He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. He goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But, they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice” (John 10:3b; 4b-5).

Sheep are dumb, but curious animals. If a sheep wanders from his sheepfold, it is unable to find its way back. The shepherd must keep a keen eye on each member of the flock. Frequently an animal that roams gets entangled in briers, helpless to move; it may get mired in a water hole, or it may stumble over a cliff, lying injured below. The shepherd leaves the flock to search for one lost lamb. When he locates it, he tenderly wraps the frightened lamb in his coat and carries it to safety on his shoulders. Our Shepherd rescues us in a similar manner. “Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between his shoulders” (Deuteronomy 33:12), the place of safety.

Sheep don’t seek isolation, but are social animals and prefer to live in a flock for safety and warmth. If one animal meanders from the fold, without his shepherd to follow, the lamb’s sense of direction is confused and it is quickly lost. As long as the shepherd is within hearing distance, sheep will bed down, comfortable and protected. Our Great Shepherd offers confidence, protection, and provision for us. “‘I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down,’ declares the Sovereign Lord. ‘I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will build up the injured and strengthen the weak. I will shepherd the flock with justice’” (Ezekiel 34:15-16).

Sheep refuse to drink stagnant water, and are frightened by rushing or turbulent rivers, preferring to drink from tranquil streams. If there is no accessible water nearby, the shepherd patiently transports water in a pail to hydrate his flock.

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Jesus taught the Samaritan woman at the well about Living Water. “‘Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life’” (John 4:14). Jesus gives spiritual life by means of Living Water, as from a fresh water spring or a mountain stream, bubbling purity that refreshes and revives. Jesus, our Living Water, provides eternal life, producing rest and refreshment along life’s journey, the only antidote for quenching spiritual thirst.

We are created with free wills, but we frequently neglect to use our intelligence wisely, making bad choices, creating consequences like a wandering, lost lamb. Jesus, our Shepherd-King, promises to lead, to strengthen, and to rescue us from danger. He gave His own life as a sacrifice to redeem the sins of the spiritually lost. Those who know Jesus respond to His voice and to His leadership. “‘My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one’” (John 10:27-30, NLT).

Sheep symbolize the relationship with their shepherd that the Great Shepherd desires with us. Sheep are ideal models of submission; followers, not leaders, obedient to one shepherd, reacting to his call, comfortable in his presence. They depend upon their shepherd for food, for protection, and for treating their injuries. Jesus admonishes us to follow Him with similar dependency and trust.

Being compared to sheep may offend human pride, but Jesus himself designed the appropriate analogy. Like lambs, do we follow our Great Shepherd as if our lives depend upon His leadership? Let us humbly recall the numerous occasions on which our Shepherd-Lord rescued us from prickly brier patches of temptation and thorny thickets of sin. “For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd, the Overseer of your souls” (1 Peter 2:25). Perhaps being compared to sheep is a spiritual compliment after all!

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The Marriage Triangle: Your Marriage Snapshot #LoveWins

Please visit TRC to read more of the great articles in this issue!

The Marriage Triangle:
Your Marriage Snapshot
#LoveWins

by Anna Popescu

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There is a moment in every marriage when something clicks and there is that aha moment when you realize, this is us! this is the essence of our relationship!

Several years ago, Rick and I vacationed with some friends in Rocky Point, Mexico. We loved walking the beach together. During our walk one day, this photo was taken of us by one of our friends. When we saw the photo for the first time, we both had one of those aha moments.

Rick and I hold hands a lot. Rick’s walk is a bit unstable; one of the results of a bad auto wreck many years ago. Holding my hand gives him more stability when he walks.

Just before we were married in 1998, one of my best friends asked me if I was absolutely sure I wanted to marry someone who had some physical difficulties. I immediately thought of our hand-holding and replied, “Well, let me see… I’ll need to hold Rick’s hand for the rest of our lives together. Hmmm, do I really want to do that? Um, yes, yes I do!”

She laughed at my response and said she was just checking to make sure I was completely ready for this marriage. I’ve always appreciated how much she loved me to be able to ask such a blunt question.

Here’s the thing: That photo above is the essence of Rick and me in our marriage. Rick holds my hand for stability, yes, but he also loves to hold my hand. I hold Rick’s hand because I want him to have that stability while he’s walking, and because I love to hold his hand.

I think that pretty much sums up our marriage—mutual love and caring for each other—and this photo has become very dear to us because it is the snapshot of our marriage.

So what is your marriage snapshot? Do you have a photo of the two of you that speaks volumes about who you are as a couple? You may not have an actual photo but maybe you remember a moment when something happened that made you think, Wow, this is so us!

LOGO-Official-MarriageTriangle-smaller--AMPThe triangle image is a great way to show that husbands and wives are to keep their eyes focused on Jesus rather than just on each other. What happens because of that is the more time we each spend focusing on Jesus and His will and plan for both of us, the better and closer our relationship with Jesus will become. And the closer we walk with Jesus, the closer we get to each other.

The inevitable result of that kind of closeness is that husbands and wives often start thinking alike and their ultimate marriage goal is to love each other as Jesus Christ loves us.

One of my favorite commentaries is J. Vernon McGee’s Thru the Bible. He breaks down 1 Corinthians 13:4—“Love suffers long and is kind”—like this:

“’Love suffers long,’ which means it is patient and kind. Love is impossible without kindness. Love without kindness is like springtime without flowers, like fire without heat. Remember how Paul admonished, “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Eph. 4:32).

If we are trying to apply the marriage triangle principle, one of the keys to living with and loving each other as Jesus loves us is with an unselfish, patient kind of love.

One of the exercises during Rick’s and my premarital counseling was to list what we expected from each other. My number one response was: “When I come home from work tired and weary, Rick will be there for me, to comfort and hold me.” How naïve I was! Our pastor pointed out that only God can fulfill that kind of need for me, so I should rely on Him for that. What a wise and true response!

Love is about building up the other person. If you have a need, a real and persistent need, then I suggest you turn to God to fill it up. He’s the only one who can fix it.1

What kind of marriage do you truly want? One that is all about what you can get out of it, or one in which you seek to love your spouse as Jesus loves you? The first one may fulfill your needs, but what about your spouse’s needs? How can you truly love your spouse if what you’re primarily focused on is how to make yourself happy?

On the other hand, a person whose attention is more centered on their spouse will look for ways to serve them, and in doing so will show how much they truly love them—again, just as Christ loves us.

Marriage is designed to mirror our Creator’s unconditional love for us. It’s a love that will always be there and will never leave us or forsake us. When a man and woman love one another with that unconditional love, contentment follows and joy abounds.2

Believe me when I say that it is so worth trying your best to love and care for your spouse with the kind of love Jesus has for us. Although there will be times when you don’t get it just right, there will be more occasions when you’ll be on the right track and reap the blessing of a closer, more loving marriage relationship.


1 Meg’s Best Man: A Montana Weekend Novella 
5 Reasons Why Marriage is so Important

Not Everyone’s Merry at Christmastime [repost from Abandoned to Christ]

Life here on earth is admittedly hard. It seems like it’s never only one thing at a time that is a difficulty. That one thing turns into a host of problems, and we wonder if we’ll ever see that light at the end of our long tunnel.

Maybe there are things we remember from a not-so-great time in our past that intrude and try to replace our happiness and joy during Christmas.

Or perhaps we’re missing some precious people who have already gone home to the Lord.

Could it be that the sadness is a combination of all of the above?

Today I’d like to share with you a recent post from one of my favorite blogs—Sunny Shell’s Abandoned to Christ. This post speaks so well about all of this. Thank you, Sunny, for helping us recognize these feelings in ourselves and those around us.

 

It seems everywhere we look and every place we go, there’s Christmas music playing, people shopping, commercials filled with laughter and gaiety; sparkling decorations and hearts filled with merriment and hope. But it’s not that way for everyone. There are a silent few…or a silent many who are not merry at Christmastime.
 
Some people have lost loved ones this year through death, or by sin that always separates. Some, like orphans, have no one to lose, but have constant dreams of finding parents who offer the sacrificial and eternal love of Christ rather than the self-centered, ephemeral love this world settles for. Then there are those who are alone in adulthood: widows, divorcees, and those struck with depression. The list goes on…and so do their sorrows. 


Read the rest here

http://www.sunnyshell.org/2014/12/not-everyones-merry-at-christmastime.html

Anna-Coffee2The advertising which may appear below is not placed by the author and is not to be considered as a part of this post or an expression of my views.